Thursday, October 4, 2012

+ Signs


I love +.

It's a wonderful mathematical symbol, for one thing. We all like to add stuff, since it's so much more fun than subtracting. Sometimes, with subtraction you have to subtract a negative number, which ends up being the same as adding ... but it's not nearly as fulfilling.

And then there's that + on batteries, which stands for Positive. Like most of us, I like to think that I'm a Positive Guy. Even when the glass isn't just half-empty but has gone clean on down to dead empty, I like to think that it's just an opportunity to fill that glass back up with something really cold and delicious.

Lately, I've encountered a number of + things, and wanted to share them with you.

Here's the first thing. I was heading over to Crockett Park a couple of weeks ago to do a weekday morning ride with my friend, Lisa Starmer, and the folks from BEAT (Brentwood Endurance Athletic Team). My route took me past Woodland Middle School just before classes were starting for the day, and I kept seeing kids on bicycles. They were all riding their bikes to school! This picture shows about half of the 50+ bikes that were lined up out front that day.

I grew up in the Atlanta suburbs in the 1970's, and there were maybe a dozen of us then that would ride our bikes to school. It just wasn't cool, and Atlanta was definitely not bike-friendly back then. Woodland Middle School, on the other hand, is very well situated for this kind of thing. It's right next to a big park that has bike paths feeding into it from neighborhoods all over Brentwood, so we shouldn't be surprised that kids would ride their bikes to school.

But I was surprised, and I am pleased. The kids thought that it was cool to ride their bikes to school, and that meant that some of them had realized that there are other ways to get around than by car, and maybe they'll continue to use bicycles for the rest of their lives to make trips and run the kinds of errands for which bikes work great.

Sure, not all of them. But maybe a few ... and that may be enough.

The second + thing was this email from my friend Bud Curtis, regarding something that happened when he was out with his wife, Lisa, riding in Nashville. The subject line was, "Where is Metro PD When You Need Them?"
They are right behind the car that passes you on your bicycle within one foot!
On Tuesday evening, Lisa and I were returning from a ride in Percy Warner Park. As we approached the red light at White Bridge Road / Woodmont on Harding, a car passed each of us within one foot. I was incensed that the driver would be so reckless only to be told by Lisa that a police car was behind us. The officer turned on his blue lights and over his car's loud speaker told the driver to pull over after telling other cars and us to proceed.
The three-foot law is alive and well in Metro Nashville. Metro police officers are enforcing the law!
A round of applause to the officer that understood and enforced the three-foot law and to Metro PD for educating their officers!!!
Ride safe and use the rules of the road,
And the third + was something that happened to me the next week. I had done my bike club's Tuesday evening ride, and was climbing a hill in the bike lane with a couple of riders about two miles from the end. We'd all been dropped by the uber-fast guys, so were taking it easy. The guy in front of me was blowing up as we neared the top of the hill, so I went around him.

Just then a car came up from behind, and he beeped his horn. I made a rude gesture to him (no, I did not give him the finger -- it was the backhanded hand flip under the chin, which is Italian for about the same thing), and he stopped his car and rolled down his window.

Now, often this results in a bad scene. Harsh words, gunfire, a police chase, weepy testimony given from a wheelchair ... we've all seen it before. Part of the problem was that I had just watched a YouTube video earlier that day where a truck in Colorado blares his horn at a couple of cyclists for miles, apparently just because the driver was a putz.

So, my chin-flip was probably aimed at the jerk in Colorado, rather than the guy in the BMW in McKay's Mill.

I pulled up next to his window and said, "I'm allowed to leave the bike lane to come around a slower cyclist." And the guy said, "I wasn't honking at you to hassle you. I just wanted you to know that I was coming up. I was worried you might swerve further out."

Which is when I realized that I was the one who had been a jerk.

I apologized, and thanked him for warning me. I wanted to explain the whole thing, but we were both now blocking the road, the late afternoon was fading fast towards twilight, and it was just kind of awkward.

Obviously, there are shmucks out there (sometimes it's us), but we can't let that taint our view of the world or keep us from riding our bikes. Bad things happen, but we get to choose whether or not we let those bad things get in the way of all of the good things still to come.

And they will come, because I believe that for every horn-honking a-hole in Colorado, there are a dozen people who move over and pass cyclists with care and compassion. For every cop that ignores drivers breaking the three-foot law there is another who understands the law and is willing to enforce it. For every kid being toted half a mile to school in the backseat of a Land Rover, there is another who's riding his bike there with his friends ... and they all think that it is so cool to be doing that.

Good things are ahead. Stay +.

1 comment:

  1. We hear so much about negative things that happen that we need to hear the + side sometimes. Thanks for this.